HARTFORD, August 22 – The Eastern League went to a split schedule this year with winners of the first half of the season earning spots in the playoffs. The first half winner in the Eastern Division was the New York Yankees’ affiliate, the Trenton Thunder.
The team with the best overall record in the Eastern Division this season took a step toward securing their spot in the playoffs on Thursday night. The Reading Fightin’ Phils used a pair of sacrifice flies to take a big step toward the playoffs with a 2-1 win over the Hartford Yard Goats before another sellout crowd at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
Reading (75-53, 36-25 second half) extended their lead over the Yard Dogs to 6½ games with 12 games remaining.
The Yard Goats (66-61, 29-31 second half) received strong pitching but still fell short. Ashton Goudeau (3-3), making his third start since coming off the injured list, allowed two runs, one earned, in three innings of work. He gave up just one hit, but it proved costly.
Reading scored an unearned run in the first on a lead-off single by Luke Williams, who promptly stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on Alec Bohm’s sacrifice fly.
The Fightins’ tacked on a run in the third without a hit. Henri Lartigue was hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to third on a sac bunt and scored on Williams’ sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
Heath Holder entered for Hartford and threw five innings of one-hit relief, walking one and striking out a season-high eight.
Meanwhile, Reading starter Spencer Howard (1-0) was just as tough in notching his first AA win. The right-hander pitched six innings – tying a season high – allowed one unearned run on two hits. He did not yield any walks and struck out seven.
The Yard Goats tallied the run in the fourth, when Mylz Jones was hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to third on a fly out and scored on an error by the third baseman, Bohm.
Phillies’ relievers Jeff Singer, Jakob Hernandez and Addison Russ then closed it out for Reading, with Russ recording his 19th save, retiring Hartford in order in the ninth.
Bret Boswell’s double and singles by Colton Welker and Vince Fernandez accounted for Hartford’s hits. Cornelius Randolph and Williams had hits for Reading.
Game two of the four-game series will be Friday night at 7:05 p.m. as the Yard Goats celebrate the life of the late Roberto Clemente, the Hall of Fame player from the Pittsburgh Pirates who died in 1972 on a relief mission after an earthquake in Nicaragua. The plane he was on crashed into the sea off the coast of Puerto Rico.
The Yard Goats will play the game as Los Chivos de Hartford.